When Peter Spier wrote and illustrated People in 1980, there were over 4 billion people in the world. Now, thirty years later, there are more than six and a half billion people.
This is one of many illustrated books given to Lesley and Peter by my mom. I have a stash of them, extravagantly different-sized and worn, in the guest room book case, waiting for Lesley&Brian-children and Peter&?-children one of these days. I try so hard to be patient. At Christmas I should post from Peter Spier's book Christmas, one of our favorite items to unwrap from the Christmas tubs. It's nothing but an illustrated account of one family's Christmas experience, before, during and after. We also have Rain.
Peter Spier was born in Amsterdam, and later moved to the U.S. He is a prolific illustrator and award winner. He won the Caldecott for Noah's Ark two years before this book. For People, Spier won the Christopher award, for "affirming the highest values of the human spirit." Peter's father, Jo Spier was also an illustrator, and a Jew. Peter was interned at Villa Bouchina near Amsterdam during WWII, a holding place for Jews, and then was moved to the concentration camp Theresienstadt, also known as Terezin. Is there anything more beautiful than someone emerging from an experience like that and birthing creations like this? To still see beauty in people of all types. To be this open.
This inscription is on the page opposite the title page.
"Not nearly all of the world's people can read and
write, yet there are almost one hundred different
ways of doing it."
"But imagine how dreadfully dull this world of
ours would be if everybody would look, think, eat,
dress, and act the same!"
"Now, isn't it wonderful that each and every one
of us is unlike any other?"
In 1980, it had been 35 years since the end of WWII, which exposed people directly and indirectly to other parts of the world. Now, thirty years since 1980, we see other places and people (some just down the road) beyond what we can hold, let alone absorb or understand.
I agree with what Menander said in the inscription. Knowing other people, from other parts of the world, and other walks of life, was a privilege I had in my home from when I was small. We had wards of the court live with us, kids who did not have safe homes of their own. Some of them brought danger to me, and loss. Into our home my parents also invited international students from China, Thailand, Korea and India to live with us or visit regularly, and we went to their houses too. I remember the overwhelming smell of curry in one tiny university apartment. Now, since I began blogging at the start of 2006, I have found friends in places that I knew little of, and as a result I know them, and myself better.
I just began reading our One Book, One Community book, Zeitoun, about a Syrian man who moved to the U.S., started a family, and lived through Katrina. Since our incoming first year students are expected to read the book, I figure it's time I read one with them this summer. One value for me reading it is that with my laptop open, I look at maps of Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus and Egypt where Zeitoun's family is from, as well as New Orelans, the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, wiki histories and find out a little more than I knew - about other people in the world, including my own country. You would not believe how much I don't know.
Do you think we've achieved greater acceptance of people unlike ourselves since Peter Spier's book?
Check out how Sy Safransky saved the 4th of July.